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Media release: trauma, suicidality and mental health conditions higher than in remote areas

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Aboriginal people living in Melbourne are experiencing trauma, suicidality and mental health conditions at rates and prevalence higher than remote Indigenous Australians.

After establishing a trauma informed, Aboriginal health service in Melbourne's outer north in November 2018, First Peoples' Health and Wellbeing have been overwhelmed by the prevalence and severity of mental health presentations at Melbourne's newest Aboriginal health clinic.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-2015 shows a statistically significant difference between the number of Aboriginal people living with long-term mental health conditions in remote (16.2%) areas and non-remote (33.1%) areas, however, at First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing, rates of complex mental health conditions are at twice this rate in those aged 15 and over (65%).

Medical Director of First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing, Dr Peter Walsh said,

“There is a preconceived idea that Aboriginal people who live in cities with more opportunity for education, jobs and housing don’t suffer the same degree of trauma and mental health conditions as those living remotely. What we’re seeing in Melbourne however, are disturbingly high rates of severe and complex mental health conditions in the majority of our patients including university educated people working full time.
Often these people have experienced significant trauma when young and on top of managing this, are now relied upon by extended family networks for logistical, emotional and sometimes financial support.
These family networks are also suffering from complex intergenerational trauma related mental health issues placing an overwhelming burden upon those who act as the carers and coordinators.”

First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing has self-funded a psychiatrist to address some of the need of the Community. Chairperson, Karinda Taylor has expressed profound dismay at the Commonwealth's lack of investment into the rapidly growing Thomastown clinic and it’s evidenced-based need for mental health services is leaving patients on months’ long waiting lists to access a culturally safe and bulk-billing psychiatrist.

Karinda Taylor, chairperson of First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing is disappointed by the complete lack of response from the Andrews State Government. Premier Dan Andrew's office did not respond at all and invitations to the clinic have been declined by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings and Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos whose office is one suburb away. Chairperson Karinda Taylor said;

“We are extremely disappointed by the Government’s lack of interest in this much needed primary health care service for Aboriginal people despite their claims to be serious about Closing the Gap.”
“The disproportionate rates of complex trauma and mental health conditions in outer Melbourne can be partially attributed to intergenerational trauma, dispossession, racism and the loss of connection to culture and country, and the lack of appropriate mental health care for our people”.
“We are proud of the difference our clinic has made to hundreds of Community members, and urge all levels of Government to invest into the critical need for trauma informed primary health care and mental health services for Aboriginal people in Melbourne”.

Karinda Taylor, registered nurse, midwife and senior lecturer is joined by a skills-based Board of Aboriginal health professionals, including psychiatrist Dr Reece Lancaster and mental health social worker Jacara Egan.

For media enquiries contact Erin Manderson: